Mike and Nukka
My Life with Nukka
I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1991. After returning from Iraq in 2003, I realized I was a changed person. I was more isolated and didn’t really care about anything. I soon divorced and am now remarried to a loving wife, Valery, and have 3 children ages 8, 9, and 9 months old. I remained this way until 2011 when my wife told me I needed to seek help. I was diagnosed with PTSD and started treatment. I found out that two Marines that I went to Iraq with had service dogs through a program in Florida. After learning how it helped them, I researched online to find the best program I could find. The most reputable in my area was Soldier’s Best Friend.
In 2011 Nukka came to us from the Alaskan Malamute Rescue of Arizona which is located in Tucson. We were excited in giving her a loving home. When she arrived she was 40 lbs. That is 20 lbs. underweight from an average female Alaskan malamute. Sue Adkins, the owner, had told us that she came from an abusive environment and that she bred too young. Nukka was a very loving dog from the beginning. After weaning her off a strict diet for 6 months, it took over a year to bring her up to 60 lbs. She is now a happy and healthy part of our family. Sue is very supportive and checks up on Nukka from time to time.
In June I applied to have Nukka trained by the Soldier’s Best Friend program. My wife, Nukka, and I were interviewed by Elaine from SBF to see if Nukka was a good fit for the program. It turned out she was and I started training in July 2013. Nukka and I have since passed the AKC Canine Good Citizenship and the service dog Public Access Test and will be graduating in February 2014.
Nukka allows me to stay calm around strangers in public places. She is my security and second set of eyes which I lack in the civilian world. On the command of “cover” she stands directly behind me horizontally and makes contact with my legs so I know she’s there. She creates a barrier which allows for me to keep my personal space clear. She blocks incoming strangers and in close quarters she guides me through to a less crowded area.
Because PTSD affected my everyday life, I decided to give up my career as a federal law enforcement officer/firearms instructor to be a stay at home dad. At home, Nukka is a calm, fun loving part of our family just like any other dog. It is amazing to see when the service dog vest goes on, she transforms into a working dog. Nukka wears a vest which is made from the same desert digital camouflage uniform I wore in the Marines. I am very grateful that Denise, who is the owner of Vests4Vets, was able to create this for me. The donations she receives allows her to make these vests for other vets with service dogs at no charge. Lynn and Paul Sansale, the owners of Rescue Dog Art, have selected Nukka to model for the 2015 Rescue Dog Art calendar. I am looking forward to this new venture with Nukka.
All these organizations have been very supportive and have created new source of awareness for veterans and their service dogs. And for that I am very thankful. There is still a question between Nukka and I. Who Rescued Who?